Reviewing the Review: Understanding the Implications of SDSR 2015

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The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review was the first defence review in thirteen years and the first to address both defence and security (although defence remained the focus of the report).

It also accompanied the first National Security Strategy, which has largely been seen to be a positive step. However, controversially, the 2010 SDSR made swingeing cuts to personnel (both military and civil servants) and to capabilities across all three services. It also imposed a tougher approach to defence budgets. These cuts, driven to a large extent by the government’s broader austerity measures, were softened by a 10 year vision (Future Force 2020) restoring a number of the capability gaps (such as carrier strike) which had been introduced by SDSR 2010. However, it was a bitter pill for many in defence to swallow and left the UK with dramatically smaller forces across all three services.

Given the ten year plan laid out in SDSR 2010, it was anticipated that the 2015 SDSR would not be a radical departure from SDSR 2010. However, the global security landscape is now changing at an unprecedented rate. The resurgence of Russia as a regional competitor; the explosion of ISIS across Syria and Iraq and the rise of terrorism at home; the European migrant crisis; the seriousness of cyber threats to critical national infrastructure; and the availability of low cost advanced technology to a wide variety of actors has forced a dramatic rethink in the way the government approaches defence and security.  Recognising the international nature of the threats and the need for an increasingly joined up approach across government to mitigate their effects, the SDSR seems likely to set about restructuring the sector to be more agile and to respond more effectively to emerging challenges.


  • Professor Michael Clarke, Director General, RUSI
  • Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director, RUSI
  • James Blitz, Leader Writer, Financial Times

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